Short Meditations on the Ascension: 3. The Message
Lk 24:47a and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name
Our biggest danger, I find myself constantly reminding us, is that we can so easily take verses for granted, take the teaching for granted and lose its wonder. Jesus is opening up the scriptures to his disciples before he finally leaves them. He has pointed out that our Old Testament has spoken about the Messiah coming, dying and rising from the dead. Now he goes on to another foundation stone of the Faith, repentance that opens the way for forgiveness of sins. This is what is to be preached in his name.
But it’s that word ‘repentance’ that we take for granted. We think we can have the Christian life on our terms. Yes, I will come and take Jesus as my Savior and Lord, but for that to have any real meaning we must ask Savior from what, Lord over what?
And there we confront the fruit of the Fall – our Sin, our sinful nature, our propensity to be self-centred and godless, a propensity that leads us into unrighteous, ungodly ways of thinking, speaking and doing, our sins. These we need to recognize and turn away from and unless we truly do, we are never truly born again. Becoming a Christian is facing the truths about ourselves, our state, our hopelessness, our helplessness, and turning away from them, crying out to God to deliver us from them, both now and every day of our time on this earth.
That is repentance and it happens to enable us to be accepted by God and to be forgiven and born again. It is to be an ongoing attitude throughout our lives for sanctification is a life-long process of change that will continue until the moment we pass away and leave this earth.
That is our side of the coin, the way we must think and act, but the other side is the forgiveness that God grants us. Again it is important to understand this because unless we do we will ever be trying to make up for our shortcomings, our failures, our indiscretions, trying to appease God for them all. The truth is we are forgiven on the basis that Jesus has died on the Cross for my sins; the guilt has been dealt with, the punishment taken, the forgiveness declared. I cannot add to that, I can only receive it and rejoice in it. Yes, it cannot be received without repentance but once that is forthcoming the forgiveness follows immediately.
That, for these apostles, is what the future is going to be about, communicating this wonder to the world they encounter. That is the message that we have, not that your neighbour can be changed to be nice (although that will happen) but that they can be forgiven and put right with God. That is the life-changing message we have, Hallelujah